Tag Archives: intelligence

Legal files vanishing, more delayed justice in Guantanamo

A soldier in a guard tower at Guantanamo. (JTF Guantanamo photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

A soldier in a guard tower at Guantanamo. (JTF Guantanamo photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Guantanamo has been struck by another controversy this week after files belonging to defense attorneys for two high-profile terror suspects began to disappear from their computers.

Last month, it came out that smoke detectors installed in some of the rooms where suspects met with their attorneys were detecting more than smoke. Now, according to a Reuters report, it seems someone has been snooping around the defense’s computers.

Navy Commander Walter Ruiz, who represents 9/11 defendant Mustafa al Hawsawi, said “three to four weeks’ worth of work is gone, vanished.”

But some new files of suspicious origin also mysteriously appeared.

He said what appeared to be a computer folder of prosecution files had turned up on the defense lawyers’ system, though none of them had opened the files.

The odd computer behavior led a judge to push week-long terror hearings scheduled this month back into June. The judge also ordered attorneys on both sides to stop using their government-issued computers.

It wasn’t clear based on the Reuters report if there is an investigation into the matter. The string of suspicious-at-best developments in Guantanamo trials is unsettling, to say the least. It seems odd that someone – presumably within the U.S. government and with access to the facilities – would be jeopardizing the integrity of such a vital trial.

If the defendants are in fact guilty of the crimes they’re accused of, those meddling with the process in their cases are only serving to damage the integrity of any outcome. If anything, all of the controversies around the case are only increasing the chances a guilty man walks free, not to mention turning public opinion against the trials.

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Iran building its own, isolated Internet

Iran is in the process of creating its own version of the Internet, the latest in a string of moves that have rubbed the leaders of the free world the wrong way.

The state-sponsored intranet already has multiple government and academic-based websites as well as email service, The Washington Post reports.

The nation of 74.8 million made a big splash online in the summer of 2009 when outraged citizens took to twitter to organize protests against what was widely thought to be a rigged election. The movement was something of a prelude to the Arab Spring in 2011, when protestors across the Middle East used Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Skype and other social media to organize.

The message was clear: The internet is bad for oppressive regimes. Iran’s measures up to now – blocking select sites that might give citizens revolutionary ideas and throttling the net to the point where much of the modern web is useless – became useless in 2009 when Iranians nearly toppled the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 140 characters at a time.

Instead of trying to keep tabs on and properly control the real internet, Iran seems to have decided to build their own. They control it, and no pesky free-speech organizations will be invited. Naturally, the Obama administration is up in arms about the country’s new project (but hey – at least it’s not nuclear powered).

“We have concerns from not only a human rights perspective, but about the integrity of the Internet,” David Baer, deputy assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said in an interview. “When countries section off parts of the Web, not only do their citizens suffer, everyone does.”

The other problem is that Iranians will no longer be noobs. As they develop and implement an entire net – presumably home to millions of devices – they’ll gain vital knowledge of how networks work, which they can later weaponize.

By “laying down the fiber” and connecting thousands of servers inside Iran, the government would “build on their knowledge of networks and how they operate,” [former NSA Deputy Director Cedric Leighton] said, increasing their capabilities to both launch and repel cyberattacks.

“But no matter what you do, there will always be vulnerabilities in a network,” Leighton said.

The network, as of now, only has about 10,000 devices online according to the Washington Post. Will it be less secure than existing networks, making it a goldmine for the folks at the NSA? Will it work? Time will tell – Iranian officials say some key governmental and military functions will be shifted to the network by the end of the month.

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Did Bachmann let classified information slip? No.

Media outlets have jumped on an answer Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann gave in last night’s Republican debates as a possible leak of classified information.

Bachmann was asked if she agreed with Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s pledge not to send aid to Pakistan if elected. Her answer, some have said, seems to be classified information:

Raw Story quotes Bachmann on the answer in question:

“We have to recognize that 15 of the sites, nuclear sites, are available or are potentially penetrable by jihadist,” Bachmann explained. “Six attempts have already been made on nuclear sites. This is more than an existential threat.”

Media wondered aloud if this was a slip up and Bachmann had just exposed on national television privileged information she had access to because of her role on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

But it isn’t classified documents she’s reading (though we hope she is reading those too), it’s The Atlantic, who printed an extensive cover story on Pakistan in their December 2011 issue. At Yahoo!’s The Envoy, Laura Rozen has the goods:

Bachmann’s contention that Islamist jihadists have made six attempts to seize Pakistani nuclear sites “is not information that’s ever been made public!” Gawker wrote, linking to a debate post by National Journal’s Yochi Dreazen. “Which raises the question: did Bachmann just leak classified information to a national audience?”

Well, apparently the answer is no.

The information came not from a classified intelligence briefing but, rather, from a recent article by Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder in the Atlantic Monthly–a sister site of the National Journal–according to the Huffington Post.

As Goldberg and Ambinder reported in their Pakistan dispatch:

“At least six facilities widely believed to be associated with Pakistan’s nuclear program have already been targeted by militants. […] If jihadists are looking to raid a nuclear facility, they have a wide selection of targets: Pakistan is very secretive about the locations of its nuclear facilities, but satellite imagery and other sources suggest that there are at least 15 sites across Pakistan at which jihadists could find warheads or other nuclear materials.”

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DIA settles with former analyst in murky case

The Defense Intelligence Agency has settled a case with former analyst John Dullahan after his security clearance was revoked in 2009. The agency has not told Dullahan why he was locked out, effectively removing from his job, for which the clearance was required. It seems to have something to do with three polygraph tests he took after being selected to work on a classified program that required FBI-administered polygraph tests.

The Washington Post’s Checkpoint Washington blog has the story.

Dullahan was fired after apparently failing three polygraphs — each time, he believes, when he was asked if he had ever spied for the Soviet Union. He can’t be sure because the Pentagon said it would damage the national security to provide any reason for Dullahan’s firing, the first time in at least 15 years that it has used this provision of the law.

Dullahan denies any wrongdoing, and believes he may have failed because of nervousness during the unusually stringent polygraphs, which brought up an earlier, dismissed allegation of disloyalty.

His wife, who also works at DIA, thinks his failures may have originated in earlier accusations of Soviet sympathies.

In the 1980s, Dullahan served several tours in the Middle East as part of the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization, a multinational mission that also included Soviet officers. At the time, he was accused of inappropriate contact with the Soviets after he socialized with them on a couple of occasions. The charge was dismissed, but Dullahan’s wife, also a DIA official, believes he was scarred by the experience, and the memory of it affected his polygraph.

The settlement seems to be purely monetary, as Dullahan’s security clearance will not be reinstated.

Now, as part of a settlement, Dullahan will receive all back pay and benefits from the date of his termination, as well as $25,000 and attorney’s fees, according to his lawyer, Mark Zaid. Dullahan will formally retire from DIA at the end of the month.

These measures will certainly help the analyst on a personal level, but his professional reputation is still tarnished for reasons he doesn’t fully understand. The DIA was able to revoke his clearance without a stated reason citing national security. The Post’s original article, from Nov. 2010, explains:

On St. Patrick’s Day 2009, the government stripped the Irish-born Dullahan’s security clearance and fired him from his job at the Defense Intelligence Agency in a manner that has no precedent at the Pentagon – invoking a national security clause that states that it would harm the interests of the United States to inform him of the accusations against him.

The Checkpoint Washington story says the analyst plans to reapply for clearance through a contractor, and will likely sue (the story doesn’t say on what grounds) if he is denied.

It’s certainly a devastating blow to one man’s career, but it isn’t hard to understand the government erring on the side of caution. It seems the missing piece — DIA’s reasoning for revoking the clearance — is the one that would lay the issue to rest. Why won’t they go public?

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CIA spies caught in Lebanon, Iran, feared dead

ABC News reports the CIA has lost assets — likely their entire network — in Lebanon, where they were gathering intelligence about Hezbollah actions against Israel. In Iran, similar but unrelated events led to the Iranian government’s discovery of spies there.

Robert Baer, famous in the intelligence community as the first CIA operative to successfully infiltrate Hezbollah, said that if the reports are true, those spies were likely killed.

Robert Baer, a former senior CIA officer who worked against Hezbollah while stationed in Beirut in the 1980’s, said Hezbollah typically executes individuals suspected of or caught spying.

“If they were genuine spies, spying against Hezbollah, I don’t think we’ll ever see them again,” he said. “These guys are very, very vicious and unforgiving.”

Baer and other critics said these losses were the result of bad intelligence practices. Some said operatives were meeting with multiple sources in the same location and using overly simplistic code words.

“If you lose an asset, one source, that’s normally a setback in espionage,” said Robert Baer, who was considered an expert on Hezbollah.

“But when you lose your entire station, either in Tehran or Beirut, that’s a catastrophe, that just shouldn’t be. And the only way that ever happens is when you’re mishandling sources.”

Others said risks of such losses were inherent in intelligence gathering.

“Collecting sensitive information on adversaries who are aggressively trying to uncover spies in their midst will always be fraught with risk,” said the U.S. official briefed on the spy ring bust.

Update: The Washington Post has a great article on the exposure as well.

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